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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced her intention to resign after more than eight years as head of the country’s government.
At a press conference at her Edinburgh residence on Wednesday, Sturgeon told reporters she’d wrestled with the decision for weeks, ultimately deciding that someone else would be better suited to the relentless pressure of the job.
“This decision is not a reaction to short-term pressures. Of course, there are difficult issues confronting the government just now. But when is that ever not the case?” Sturgeon said, later adding: “The nature and form of modern political discourse means there is a much greater intensity — dare I say it, brutality — to being a politician than in years gone by.”
The decision caught many political observers by surprise. Just three weeks ago, Sturgeon told the BBC there was “plenty left in the tank” for both her leadership and the Scottish independence movement she has championed.
Sturgeon stepped up to lead the country’s Scottish National Party and serve as first minister after her predecessor, Alex Salmond, resigned in 2014 following an unsuccessful independence referendum.
Sturgeon announced her own intention to pursue an independence vote in 2016 after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. That vote failed as well.
In June 2022, Sturgeon again made a significant move towards a vote by asking Boris Johnson, then Britain’s prime minister, for a Section 30 order, which would grant Edinburgh the power to hold such a vote. When Johnson refused, Sturgeon said the SNP would hold a vote any way.
But this November, the U.K. Supreme Court reaffirmed that the Scottish government cannot hold a referendum without U.K. government approval.
That ruling, combined with the conservative party’s hold over the British parliament, had already left the prospect of Scottish independence on shaky ground. Sturgeon’s resignation deals the movement another blow.
“I’m not expecting violins here,” Sturgeon acknowledged on Wednesday, later explaining that she believed the next election in Britain would serve as “a de facto vote” on the likelihood of independence.
Sturgeon will remain in office until a new first minister can be elected by the Scottish National Party.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.